State Library of Victoria \ Exhibitions \ Love and devotion
Skip to main content
Love and Devotion: From Persia and Beyond

Love and Devotion: From Persia and Beyond


References to Persia abound in William Shakespeare’s plays. During the outward-looking reigns of both Queen Elizabeth I and Shah ʿAbbas I, contact between the East and West increased greatly.

Parallels between Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet and the classic Persian tale of Layla and Majnun can be seen on a number of levels. Their shared narratives of young lovers meeting in childhood, being separated by their families and having tragically early ends reveal the universality of their themes, which date at least as far back as the Roman story of Pyramus and Thisbe.

Persia was generally associated in the West with notions of luxury and wealth as a result of the importation of richly decorated goods for elite consumption. Shakespeare possibly alludes to the prestige of Persian cloth in King Lear. This also appears to be a prescient reference to the fashion for Persian dress soon introduced by travellers such as Sir Anthony and Sir Robert Sherley and embraced by figures as influential on popular taste as King Charles II.

Love & devotion in the UK

The Bodleian Libraries is showing its own presentation of the Love and devotion exhibition at the Exhibition Room, Bodleian Library, in Oxford, England, between 29 November 2012 and 28 April 2013.

Learn more about how you can visit this exhibition on the Bodleian Libraries website.


Love and devotion: Persian Cultural Crossroads

This two-day conference held in April 2012 featured distinguished international guests and Australian specialists exploring cultural convergences in literature, the arts and architecture, history and philosophy within Persia's cultural sphere and Europe, from the 11th century to the present day.

For information on keynote speakers & topics discussed, visit our conference page

Visit the exhibition

The Love and devotion exhibition took place from 9 March to 1 July 2012. In-depth information about the exhibits and themes can be found on this website.

State Library of Victoria, 328 Swanston Street,
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, Tel +61 3 8664 7000